Every agency goes through the tough teenage years, with growing pains, anxiety and a lack of direction. Hopefully, they all make it through to adulthood and leave the awkward acne behind, but how do you transition through high-speed growth with minimum embarrassment? The answer may not be the most exciting but processes are nonetheless lifesavers. So where are the key areas that you need to implement strong agency processes?
Hierarchy and Management
Having a clear vision is easy when there is just three of you discussing strategy over coffee. However as your business grows, both in people and in workload each individual may have different opinions in which direction to go in. Formulating a management structure for expansion will reduce confusion regarding roles and responsibilities. It will allow you to maintain a clear vision for the progression of your agency and it will also help any future employees know who they are reporting to.
This doesn’t mean it will be all smooth sailing. Often as an agency grows, they find some roles become redundant and sorting the wheat from the chaff can be a difficult process, especially when you have employees who have been with you since the beginning. That said, tightening up your agency staff is the best way to keep the company moving forward.
Proofing and Quality Assurance
Some agency owners find it hard to relinquish the reins, and while that is a problem, so is not having the proper processes to guarantee that the work that your team produces is the best quality. Though you should definitely trust in your team, no one is infallible and a second pair of eyes checking the work done can catch a mistake before it makes it to the client.
It can also be a great way of testing your training. If lots of staff are making the same mistakes in the same areas, you can quickly fix it with a team training session. This proactive approach means problems do not have time to develop and your staff feel supported.
Sales and Prospecting
When an agency creates a sales process that they can replicate endlessly, they are in a very strong position. A streamlined and concrete vision of what clients you are going after, what you can offer them and how you close the deals, means less time scrambling after dubious prospects. It also reduces the ‘feast or famine’ element of the business, as you can start going after clients that you know you can successfully manage and therefore retain.
Choosing industries you are confident in means you will be far more familiar with handling their marketing. This means less time spent on research for a client that may leave in a month or two.
Upselling and Retention
Maintaining a positive working relationship with current clients may not seem to promote fast growth. However, keeping happy retainers on the books and upselling them services as you expand means you will be in a fairly secure position. This will help you when it comes to forecasting the success of new services (offering them to existing clients first adds value to your service but also means you can control the uptake until you are sure all the wrinkles are ironed out).
Fostering a relationship where both agency and client grow together can also help with sales, as they will make excellent case studies and give great testimonials. A high client turnover also is not the most appealing to future prospects, so don’t forget that hard work does not stop once you have won the client, you also have to keep them.
One of the biggest problems for agencies going through growth spurts is evolving in a controlled and measured manner. While you may feel like you have more work than you can handle, you still need to take the time to make sure you are keeping to your business plan and growing in the direction you want to proceed in. Too many people wait for things to slacken off, and they look around and realise they no longer recognise their own agency. It is far easier to curtail the growth when you are in it instead of stripping away the unwanted parts after the fact.
This is why you need to have processes in place that allow you to take regular stock of the company’s direction. To check in with top-level management to make sure they are all comfortable and onboard, and to generate new ideas to push you towards your desired future.
The fall down of the growing agency is ‘the one man band’, you will burn out in no time and produce less than stellar work. This is not just for those starting out, if your team is overworked, you will have some seriously dissatisfied staff. Instead, avoid the headache altogether, If you have a decent process for managing your agency’s growth, you can forecast where you will be in the next couple of months and what roles you will be looking to fill.
Instead of having to hire someone who is not a perfect fit for the company, or who requires more training than the role is actually worth, you can start head hunting proactively. By removing the time sensitivity, you can find someone who is an asset to your team and will be with you for the long haul.
So which of these processes do you need to implement within your agency?